|Be Not Afraid.
The Fifth Day before the Nativity.*
Lessons from the feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Isaiah 7: 10-14.
• Psalm 24: 1-6.
• Luke 1: 26-38.
"O KEY OF DAVID and Sceptre of the house of Israel: You closed and no one opens. Come, and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death."
9:20 AM 12/20/2014 — Today's Mass, on the fifth day before the Nativity, or what the old calendar calls Ember Saturday of Advent, draws our attention to the Annunciation, the announcement to the Mother of God that she would be the Mother of the Savior; and, her docility to the will of God, delivered to her by an angel, harkens back to a similar attitude taken by the man who would soon after this become her husband, from whom we drew the same lesson two days ago. Make no mistake: the Blessed Virgin did not ask to be the Mother of God; she didn't apply for the job in spite of the fact that God had prepared her for it by means of her Immaculate Conception. I fear sometimes that we so mystify and embellish the saints so as to think that their will was somehow less free than ours, and that tasks which, in the Lives of the Saints, so fancifully and histrionically written, they appear to embrace without anxiety, came easily to them because of their holiness. Even the Mother of God, conceived without sin, was not immune to human doubt and human fear—otherwise she wouldn't have been human.
That's why Mary's life is the perfect example for all of us. Just as it was for her, the circumstances of our lives are often not choices we make for ourselves, and we may very well doubt our ability to be faithful in the difficulties they present. But as our Lord said in St. John, “It was not you that chose me, it was I that chose you” (John 15: 16 Knox); and, because he has chosen us, he will not abandon us. We can pretend that he has, because we don't want to admit to our failures. But that's only because we forget that the gift of Sufficient Grace, about which we've been thinking so much during this season, is not a guarantee that our lives will be problem free. Our Lord said that himself: “If any man has a mind to come my way, let him renounce self, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9: 23 Knox).
Now, those words may not sound particularly pleasant to us, but what the angel said to Mary at her Annunciation, he has also said to each one of us: he said it to me on the day I was ordained, he said it to many of you on the day you were married, he said it to each one of us on the day of our baptism: “Be not afraid.” That one simple sentence, spoken by God through all eternity, sums up the entire Gospel on the subject of grace. But so often we are afraid. We’re afraid of obligation. We’re afraid of sacrifice. And to overcome this fear we have to accept what we so often don't want to accept: that God has not abandoned us. We must respond as Mary did: “…let it be unto me according to thy word.” Saying that did not mean that Mary understood it all, and I think it is unreasonable to assume that she did, for she did not have clairvoyance. What she did have was faith. Faith enough to say, "I am not afraid." Just as we must say every single day: I am not afraid of following the Lord. I am not afraid of responsibility and obligation. I am not afraid of living with a sudden and unexpected loss. I am not afraid of marriage. I am not afraid of the priesthood. I am not afraid of the Gospel. I am not afraid of the cross. I am not afraid of things not going my way. I am not afraid of doing what is right, no matter what the consequences. I am not afraid of life.
And Jesus checked him with a word, and the devil came out of him; and from that hour the boy was cured. Afterwards, when they were alone, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, Why was it that we could not cast it out? Jesus said to them, Because you had no faith. I promise you, if you have faith, though it be but like a grain of mustard seed, you have only to say to this mountain, Remove from this place to that, and it will remove; nothing will be impossible to you (Matt. 17: 17-19 Knox).
* From December 17th on, the ferial days before the Nativity all have their proper texts. They are sometimes called the days of the Greater Antiphons or "O Antiphons" after the antiphons sung or recited for the Magnificat at Vespers on these days, which may also be sung with the Alleluia at the verse before the Gospel at Holy Mass.